Player Appreciation Post: William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs

After a season full of controversy, it looks as if William Nylander has bounced back, setting a career-high in goals (25) that gets higher after every game he plays. Nylander has missed the Leafs last two games with an illness, and in them, the Leafs were outshot in the 3rd period 31-5 and blew leads late in both games. This tells us that the Leafs severely miss Nylander’s ability to create offense, despite the fact that the Leafs other $10+ million-dollar men played in both games, and Captain John Tavares scored key goals in each.

 

AB wise, Nylander has been one of the better players in the league over his career, only registering a negative season once. Despite his contract dispute, and therefore shortened season in 2018, he still managed to finish the season with a positive AB score. The season before, he posted a +8.59 score, which was good for the 7th best AB in the league in 2017-18. As a result of him playing the majority of the time with Auston Matthews that season, Matthews’ AB score was his highest registered in his career at +9.24. That score was good for the 4th best AB score in the league in 2017-18. That season, the Leafs set a franchise record in wins and wins at home, and Nylander obviously played a key part in that. William Nylander is not just one of the most valuable players on the Leafs, but one of the most valuable players in the league. In fact, he’d be the leading goal scorer on 21/31 NHL teams this season. He is currently 12th in the league in goals, 32nd in points, as a 23-year-old making under $7 million per year. He is on pace to surpass the 35 goal mark this season, which is more than what consensus elite sniper Patrick Laine is on pace to post. Just saying. He also leads the league in zone-entries, something that the Leafs needed in their last two games. He was riding an 11 pts in 9 games point streak before his illness. This season, Nylander is 3rd on the Leafs in takeaways and has a higher takeaway/giveaway ratio than Marner and Tavares. Players like this don’t grow on trees, yet there are still some members of Leafs faithful whose sole existence on Twitter is to demand Nylander be traded.

 

With the trade deadline quickly approaching, you’ll notice that the “Trade Nylander” buzz has significantly died down, and Leafs media has shifted their attention to dealing Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alexander Kerfoot in pursuit of a Top 4 right-shot defenseman that they still desperately need. Currently, the Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with 66 points in 56 games, and since they hired Coach Sheldon Keefe on November 20th, they have a 20-9-4 record which is among the better records in the league over that span. It’ll be interesting to see what moves Leafs GM Kyle Dubas decides to make over the next couple weeks and to watch the remainder of the Leafs’ current playoff push. More to come.

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